- By Julie Chang American-Statesman Staff
Drawing on her own experiences as a young working mom in Houston, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for more affordable child care — and more Texas women to run for office to push for it — during a speech Friday in Austin.
The Massachusetts politician, a darling of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, was the keynote speaker at the 15th anniversary celebration of Annie’s List, whose mission is to get more progressive Texas women to run for office. Hundreds of people, mostly women, attended the noon event at the Long Center.
As she has done in previous speaking engagements around the country, Warren shared her struggles juggling motherhood and her job as a University of Houston law professor in the early 1980s. She used her experience with inadequate child care to highlight what she considered a need for child care reform, women going to and staying in the workforce, and women running for office.
“The thing that eventually sank me was child care,” Warren said. “I still remember going to pick up the baby from the day care center one afternoon. It was in this strip mall, and when I walked in to collect him, he was just sitting on this cot. His face was dirty, and his nose was crusty, and his diaper was soggy. I felt like a failure. No, I didn’t feel like a failure. I was a failure.”
She said she was ready to quit her job until her aunt from Oklahoma traveled to Houston to help her out. Her aunt ended up living with her for 16 years.
Warren had two children while working in Houston. She would later go on to teach at the University of Texas Law School before ultimately settling in Massachusetts.
Warren said that access to child care has become less accessible since she was a young mother, with costs rising as much as 1,000 percent over the last four decades.
“In nearly half of all states in this country, child care costs are higher than the cost of in-state public college tuition,” Warren said. “That is a giant boulder that rumbles toward working women and that slaps so many families all across this country.”
This is the sort of issue that can be fixed by electing progressive women leaders, she said. Her call for more female candidates comes as Texas has seen a spike in the number of women running for office at the state and local levels.
According to Annie’s List, 117 women, both Republicans and Democrats, have filed to run for state and local offices in the 2018 election, a 54 percent increase from 2016.
Although half of the state’s population is women, 80 percent of the members of the Legislature are men.
“One, they see someone as unqualified as Donald Trump can actually run for president and be elected,” said Patsy Woods Martin, executive director of Annie’s List, explaining why she’s seeing more women run. “Two, they see how counter his values and policies are to the things that they care about, and they are ready to step up and do something about it.”
Across the country, more Republican women are running, too. According to the Republican State Leadership Committee, 390 new GOP female candidates have been elected to office nationally since 2012.